OnePlus 3T full review
OnePlus has upgraded its flagship phone with new hardware including cameras and processor, but should you buy it over Google's own Android flagship? Here's our OnePlus 3T vs Google Pixel XL review. See also: Best phones 2016.
OnePlus 3T vs Google Pixel XL review: Price
One of the big differences here is the price as although the OnePlus 3T is more expensive than its predecessor at £399 (the OnePlus 3 is £329 while stocks last), it's a lot cheaper than the Google Pixel XL – a lot cheaper. See also: OnePlus 3 vs OnePlus 3T.
Google may have set a precedent for affordable smartphones with the Nexus range but the Pixel phones come with top-tier prices – perhaps one of the reasons the firm used the new branding. The Pixel XL is the more expensive of the two Google phones at a somewhat hard to stomach £719 which matches the iPhone 7 Plus.
A difference of £320 is huge but let's look at how these phones compare in terms of design, specs and more to see if it's worth spending the extra cash.
OnePlus 3T vs Google Pixel XL review: Design and build
With the same screen size, the phones we're looking at here are a similar size. They are both big and may be unwieldy for some but these modern phablets are more ergonomic than earlier models. Both offer premium design and build combining metal and glass so there's little to choose between them here.
Much of it will come down to which you prefer the look of and the feeling in the PC Advisor office is the OnePlus 3T due to the Pixel XL's slightly odd section of glass at the back. This is where the fingerprint scanner resides and is nice to use when the phone is in your hand but isn't so helpful when it's on a flat surface.
Meanwhile, the OnePlus 3T's is on the front like previous designs and is arguably more useful. The phone is also thinner and lighter than the Pixel XL at 7.4mm and 158g compared to 8.4mm and 168g. It's a small difference in numbers but a noticeable one in the hand.
Waterproofing is a much more common in phones these days but neither device here offers the feature. The Google Pixel XL marginally wins with its basic dust and splash resistance, although we suspect the 3T offers a similar level of protection, just unofficially.
A small thing to add is the Alert Slider on the side of the OnePlus 3T which means you can quickly switch been three notification settings. It's something we've found really useful.
OnePlus 3T vs Google Pixel XL review: Specs and hardware
The main reason we're comparing the OnePlus 3T with the Pixel XL is that they share the same 5.5in screen size. There is a smaller Pixel at 5in if you're looking for something smaller, though.
One of the main differences here is that the 3T has a lower resolution at Full HD compared to the Pixel XL's Quad HD. The latter is therefore crisper thanks to the extra pixels, pun unintended, but the Full HD resolution will be enough for a lot of users – it also has other benefits such as going easier on battery consumption.
While the Pixel XL uses AMOLED technology, the 3T has what OnePlus calls Optic AMOLED. This is essentially the firm's own version of SuperAMOLED with tweaked contrast and colour temperature. They are both excellent so it's the resolution which splits them in a bigger way here.
Both of these phones have Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 processor which is top-of-the-line until the Snapdragon 835 arrives next year. However, the OnePlus 3T has a whopping 6GB of RAM making the XL's 4GB look a little paltry - a handy difference for the power users out there.
Although we now have benchmarks for each of these phones, it emerged in February that OnePlus had been caught cheating popular benchmarks such as Geekbench and GFXBench. XDA-Developers accuses OnePlus of having configured the processor to automatically switch into overdrive mode when a popular benchmark is detected (you can read the full story here).
OnePlus has confirmed the practice and apologised, stating that "In order to give users a better user experience in resource intensive apps and games, especially graphically intensive ones, we implemented certain mechanisms in the community and Nougat builds to trigger the processor to run more aggressively. The trigger process for benchmarking apps will not be present in upcoming OxygenOS builds on the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T."
For now you should query recent benchmark results, but the ones in our reviews are accurate as they were conducted before the affected versions of OxygenOS. However note that with the flagship-level hardware onboard both the OnePlus and Google phone both should be very decent performers, and behaved as such during real-world testing.
When it comes to storage, the Pixel XL comes with 32GB as standard and you can upgrade to 128GB for an extra £100. The OnePlus 3T has more at 64GB and you can also get a 128GB model for just £40. Either way you'll want to consider the upgrade as neither comes with a Micro-SD card slot for expandable storage, although Google does offer unlimited full resolution photo and video online backup with the Pixel XL.
Moving on and the phones are evenly matched on a lot of specs such as 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC and the aforementioned fingerprint scanner. They also both have USB Type-C which is reversible and offers faster charging. It's also worth noting that the 3T offers dual-SIM capabilities.
Despite being thinner, the OnePlus 3T's battery is 3400mAh, only 50mAh smaller than the XL's. OnePlus touts enough power to last a day with just a 30 minute Dash Charge, while Google says you'll get seven hours' worth with a 15 minute charge on the XL. The graph below from OnePlus shows charging while playing a video.
Last but not least on the spec sheet are the cameras and we're going to start at the front because OnePlus has upgraded the selfie camera to match the rear at 16Mp with f/2.0 aperture and 1µm pixel size. The XL has an 8Mp camera with lower f/2.4 aperture but larger 1.4µm pixels.
At the rear the XL has a 12.3Mp with features such as phase detection and laser autofocus, large 1.55µm pixels and a dual-tone LED flash. The OnePlus 3T has a larger 16Mp camera and has optical image stabilisation (OIS) and phase detection autofocus but smaller 1.12µm pixels.
As a general rule of thumb if the rear camera is more important, then the Pixel XL is the best choice but the OnePlus 3T nudges it for selfie fans.
OnePlus 3T vs Google Pixel XL review: Software
We think software is less important compared to the above but if it's important to you then here we go.
Although the OnePlus 3T has launched after the Pixel XL, it doesn't come with the latest version of Android, 7.1 Nougat. It doesn't even come with 7.0 Nougat but has 6.0 Marshmallow instead and is due to be upgraded in December.
OnePlus loads its own OxygenOS 3.5 software interface over Android. We like the almost stock iteration of the mobile OS which allows you to do things like arrange the Quick Settings, adjust icon sizes and more customisation like gesture controls.
When you swipe right from the homescreen you'll get Shelf instead of Google Now as on the XL which is where you'll find your favourite apps, contacts and more.
The advantage of the Google Pixel XL for some is getting true stock Android with the latest features and being at the front of the queue for future versions. Nougat on the XL has some great features such as split screen apps, a bunch of improvement's to the likes of notifications and the Google Assistant built-in.
There's no obvious winner here as it comes down to what you prefer.
OnePlus 3T: Specs
- OxygenOS based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
- Adreno 530
- 6GB LPDDR4 RAM
- 64/128GB internal storage
- 5.5in Full-HD Optic AMOLED screen (1920x1080, 401ppi), Gorilla Glass 4
- 16Mp rear camera, f/2.0 aperture, 4K video
- 16Mp front camera
- USB Type-C charging port
- 11ac Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.2
- GPS with GLONASS
- Fingerprint scanner
- Bottom-facing speaker
- Dual-mics with noise cancellation
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 4G LTE Cat 6
- Dual Nano-SIM
- 3400mAh non-removable lithium-polymer battery
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